Lawsuit says VA mishandled claims
By Laura Parker, USA TODAY
A coalition of disabled Iraq war veterans sued the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday, accusing the VA of illegally denying or delaying claims for disability pay and mental health treatment. The lawsuit names Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, among others, and asks for sweeping changes in the way the federal government handles claims of more than 1.6 million veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
“We’re asking the court to set time standards. When veterans apply for medical care, it takes months and years,” said Gordon Erspamer, one of the attorneys who filed the suit. He said changes are needed now “because of the huge influx of claims that will be coming through the pipeline in the next year or two.”
Filed on behalf of an estimated 750,000 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawsuit is the latest in a list of complaints about the quality of medical care provided to veterans returning from war. This month, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ordered the VA to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange who have contracted leukemia.
VA spokesman Matt Smith declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. He told the Associated Press that the VA “ensures … servicemembers have access to the widely recognized quality health care they have earned.”
Some of the alleged shortcomings named in the suit include:
• A backlog of up to 600,000 disability payments, with delays of up to 177 days for initial claims.
• A shortage of treatment programs for post-traumatic stress disorder.
• A classification of post-traumatic stress disorder claims as “pre-existing personality disorders” in order to deny veterans disability or medical treatment.
Steve Edwards, an Army sergeant who returned from Iraq in 2005, said he almost lost his house while he waited 14 months without income for disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. “The system is broken,” he said Monday.
Comment by Oldtimer: This is only one of about 350 news stories on the net today. Below are a few samples.
Injured Iraq war veterans sue VA head Kansas City Star
Injured Iraq War Veterans To Sue Va Head Guardian in UK
Veterans sue over “shameful failures” in care Washington Post
Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans sue US government Melborne Hearald Sun Austrailia
US Veterans Take Class Action Newsroom America, New Zealand
Iraqi, Afghan veterans sue US govt Times of India, India
Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans sue US Press TV, Iran (excerpts below)
Hundreds of thousands of the war veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed a lawsuit against the US over lack of medical care. They accused the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of violating the constitutional rights of war veterans who have to face a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves claims pending for up to 10 years.
“The delays have become an insurmountable barrier preventing many veterans from obtaining health care and benefits,” the plaintiffs said in their 11-page complaint filed at a US District Court in San Francisco.
The Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth Inc. complained on behalf of “hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered grievous injuries,” alleging the system for deciding VA claims “has largely collapsed.”
“The huge influx of injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has overwhelmed the VA’s outmoded systems for providing medical care and disability benefits,” the complaint said.
Oldtimer’s Comment: I wish the VA had listened to a few of our lonely voices and done something without all this world wide attention. The VA should make us as proud as our troops have. They are treating heroes. They are treating our returning warriors. They need to be treated right. We don’t need to give the enemy any reason to crow.